Swansea yesterday announced that manager Michal Laudrup had been relieved of his duties, in a decision that has invoked shock and criticism in equal measures.
There is no doubt that the Liberty Stadium outfit have been in poor form of late, with the club only winning one of their last ten Premier League fixtures – but there are a number of reasons behind this season not panning out quite as would have been hoped.
After Brendan Rodgers’ fantastic showing as the Welsh club’s manager, many believed that the Northern Irishman had taken the outfit as far as really could be expected.
However, Laudrup raised the bar considerably last term, finishing ninth in the Premier League and lifting the first major piece of silverware in the club’s 102-year history in the form of the Capital One Cup.
This season the expectations of Swansea have been pushed skywards once more, and a period of mediocrity is clearly seen as just not good enough.
Swansea sit in 12th place in the Premier League currently, but due to the tight-knit nature of the bottom half of the table, are only two points above the relegation zone.
However, they are only three points adrift of tenth place and the top half of the table, finishing in which was quite rightly deemed as an overwhelming success last season. So, is one win over the course of the season the difference between a manager being a success and getting the sack?
There are a number of reasons why Swansea are struggling slightly this season. The side have been robbed of talisman Michu, who has only featured in 12 Premier League games this term, while other key players have also faced prolonged periods on the sidelines.
Laudrup seems to have become a victim of his own success, as playing eight extra games in the Europa League have played their part in detracting from domestic responsibilities.
The club’s fledgling Europa League campaign should be viewed as a success though, rather than a hindrance. Swansea qualified from their group to make the knockout rounds, beating Spanish giants Valencia 3-0 at the Mestalla along the way – a team that has just defeated Barcelona at Camp Nou at the weekend.
As a result, top international players from Napoli will be the visitors to the Liberty Stadium later this month, as Swansea have a glamour tie in the next stage of the competition.
Swansea chairman Huw Jenkins’ decision is made all the more baffling as Laudrup was awarded a new contract at the club less than a year ago, back in March. This deal was put in place to ward off a similar situation to what had occurred with Rodgers, as ‘bigger’ clubs were being repeatedly linked with a move for the Dane.
Since penning the new deal, Laudrup has led the club to its first piece of major silverware in a century and its highest league position ever, yet due to a minor blip that sees the club a mere three points off the top half of the table, the Scandinavian has been sacked.
Laudrup follows in the footsteps of the likes of Malky MacKay in being shown the door unreasonably. In the former Cardiff manager’s case, the takeover of the club by a foreign owner marked the end.
However, given that Swansea have been wholeheartedly been viewed as a club being sensibly run, with perspective and consideration, Laudrup’s axing comes as something of a bolt out of the blue.
The Dane has excelled in the role, and Swansea’s decision should not tarnish his burgeoning reputation. For the Welsh club, this risky and rash choice has just as much chance of seeing Swansea relegated as finishing in the top half of the Premier League for the second consecutive year.